Migrants and the European Union: feedback from the Question Time

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I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Migrants and the European Union: feedback from the Question Time

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I think it is fair to say that political hustings have become livelier since UKIP began to join panels about five years ago.

Yesterday's event on the forthcoming European Parliamentary election was a case in point even though the chair, Camilla Cavendish of the Sunday Times, said that debate about the UK's membership of the EU was off limits.

In his opening 3 minute pitch, the UKIP's environmental representative, Stuart Agnew MEP,  blamed raptors for the decline in songbirds, grey squirrels for the decline in most other species, said climate change was a complete sham and wind farms were destroying the economy.  I paraphrase a bit, but it was quite a speech.

He did concede that the decline in bees might have something to do with the way we farm and that farmers should look to set aside land for managing wildlife.

So it was good that there was something we could agree on.  After the event, Mr Agnew and I talked about predation and I promised to send him our latest scientific understanding of the impact on birds (which I have shared through this blog on many occasions).  With UKIP riding high at 31% in opinion polls, I am sure that we shall have another chance to discuss this issue.

There was more common ground when I asked the panel about their views on Maltese spring hunting of migratory birds such as turtle dove.  Julie Girling MEP (Conservative) was pleased to be able to report on positive meetings with the Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik where the promise was given to put more European Commissioners on the ground to monitor hunting on Malta.  

The other MEPs on the panel, Linda McAvan MEP (Labour), Keith Taylor MEP (Green) and Chris Davies MEP (Liberal Democrats) seemed united on taking action on this issue and if elected it is reassuring to know that there will be a cohort of UK MEPs keen to exert their influence to end spring hunting in the Mediterranean once and for all.

In fact, I was pretty impressed by the knowledge and track-record of the MEPs.  On issues as varied as climate change and energy security, CAP, CFP and neonicotinoids, the majority of the panel were able to explain what they had been doing in the European Parliament to secure positive outcomes for the environment and displayed genuine passion to do good.

They all struggle to be visible to their electorate, despite their best endeavours - Chris Davies made the point that his constituency is as large as 13 of the EU's Member States.  And they all, rightly, bemoan, the lack of informed coverage of Europe in the media.  Camilla Cavendish, when put on the spot, did suggest that the complexity of the European processes did make it difficult to sell a story and also admitted that since the recession it has been a lot harder to run environment stories in the media.

We won't give up trying to raise the profile of Europe and the environment.  We are planning further hustings events across the country in the run up to 22 May poll. We've also set up new webpages (here) outlining what we want to from candidates and videos of some of the spokespeople outlining what they are offering.  Next week, I shall explain how you can help get involved to make their your voice heard and vote count.

Tomorrow, I shall return to the plight of the turtle dove.

  • I had an excellent response from Catherine Bearder. Others received the same reply but, nevertheless, it was timely and well thought out. Catherine is President of the Green Lib Dems and member of the Welfare and Conservation of Animals at the EU. I await the other replies; I wonder what Nigel Farage will say, having seen your response from the UKIP representative above!

    Regards, GI (but you can call me Glossy, a total misnomer)

  • Thank Mr Ibis - I hope you get your response soon...

  • I wrote to all my MEPs recently about the situation in Malta and asked that they support the initiatives of BirdLife Europe. Keith Taylor has been very proactive in approaching the appropriate Commissioner. I've yet to have any replies to my emails!

  • Thanks for the insight gleaned from your latest trip, Redkite.  No-one said it would be easy!  

  • Well done to one and all. This work is absolutely vital and necessary in raising the profile of the Environment in Europe. It is heartening the this dreadful business of the massacre of migrating birds in Malta may now be being taken slightly more seriously by the EU. Hopefully the same attention can be directed to Cyprus, where the mass illegal netting of birds is also ghastly, and I understand may now involve the Russian mafia to an extent. However, having just returned from a bird watching trip to Cyprus it is ironic that actually the turtle dove was quite common and numerous there.

    The point that will need to be watched if the illegal hunting and killing of birds in Malta and Cyprus is drastically curtailed in the next few years, is that these people who are intent on killing anything and everything may well try to go elsewhere.